© 2018 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
The first day Awolowo called me on phone, I knelt down till the phone fell, says son-in-law
Obafemi Awolowo, the late Premier of the defunct Western Region, was so idolised by his followers that phone calls from him were big deals and the gifts of even his used shoes were celebrated.
This was revealed by Olutayo Soyede, Awolowo’s close associate and son-in-law, who is also the father of Dolapo Osinbajo, wife of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
Soyede, who was speaking about the statue of Awolowo unveiled by Akinwumi Ambode, Lagos State Governor, recently, said if Awo gifted anyone his used shoes, it was considered a blessing.
The statue had generated lots of controversies as persons close to Awolowo said it is not a true reflection of the man idolised by many Nigerians.
For instance, the statue depicted Awolowo as wearing boots, something almost all his followers said he never wore.
Commenting on the statue, Soyede said he would not condemn the statue as it was a sign that Awolowo’s works were recognized and appreciated.
However, he said: “I know Papa didn’t wear boots. He was always wearing nice shoes.
“All of us would remember that because every two years, Papa would always distribute his shoes to all his sons-in-law.
“He used to buy shoes a lot. If he saw a pair of shoes that he loved, he would buy three pairs. It was a must. He would put one pair in Apapa, one pair in Ibadan and one pair in Ikenne.
“So, shoes were always many and wherever he went, we didn’t have to carry shoes around.
“After two years, the house would be full and he would have to distribute them to us. So, I got many, and thankfully, we were of the same size.
“But even if Papa gave you shoes and you were not of the same size, you would put paper inside. Papa’s shoes? That was like a blessing.”
Soyede, who will be 75 in January 2018, also shared how he met his wife, Awolowo’s daughter, in the UK and how he tricked her family into allowing him to marry her.
“I met her in London where we were both studying and we fell in love. It was basically about students meeting each other in the UK during studies,” he said.
“I felt that before Chief Awolowo would say his daughter must not marry me, I needed to adopt what we used to call two-in-one, meaning marriage and pregnancy, so that by the time he would know, his daughter would have been pregnant and stopping us from getting married would be difficult.
“You know in that atmosphere, people tend to be more reckless. So, I did the two-in-one and both of us had to tell our parents what happened.
“When I told my father, he screamed, saying I had put him in trouble. When she told her mother, I didn’t know how she too screamed, but I remember one afternoon, at about 2:30pm, a call came in from Lagos.
“When I picked it, the person said: ‘Is that Tayo Soyode?’ I said yes. The person said: ‘This is Obafemi Awolowo’. I started trembling and knelt down, till the phone almost fell in my hand.”